By contributing writer Mary Cressler
Spring. It’s the time of year when people start to come out of hibernation. If you live in the midwest or northeast, with the current year’s brutal winter, you know what I mean.
Here in Portland, Oregon we’ve been blessed with a few incredibly sunny days when neighbors came out to start working on their yards, catch up with each other, and hang out over brunch or afternoon gatherings. Spring also means the beginning of rosé season (hooray!).
Recently we had the perfect example of all of these things coming together. We had beautiful spring weather with abundant sunshine, which called for an afternoon gathering of neighbors to hang out, sip on wine, and nosh, while the kids played.
The farmer’s market had just re-opened in Portland, after being closed for the winter, so we went there on Saturday morning for inspiration. I love getting ideas for cooking from what is available at the market. Right now, the primary things available are lots of greens, potatoes, leeks, carrots, and other root vegetables. Hmm, what to make?
Soup I decided! But for a party? Why not. I decided to throw together a bunch of appetizers, which included a cheese and charcuterie plate (with ingredients all available from farmer’s market vendors), and a potato leek soup as the primary focus.
With a variety of flavors being offered, I went with one of my favorite food pairing wines – dry rosé.
Farmer’s markets aren’t the only thing that pop up in the spring. It’s also the time of year that rosés are released to the market. Many think of rosé as a summer wine, but I drink it year-round. I find dry rosé (not to be confused with the other pink wine – white Zinfandel) particularly appealing in the spring with seasonal foods that are often considered challenging (like asparagus). I also love them for spring brunches and afternoon get-togethers, where there will likely be competing flavors offered. They are also fresh, and refreshing, making them nice choices for daytime sipping.
For something like potato leek soup, I wanted a wine that could stand up to the creamy texture, with enough acidity to cut through the heaviness of the soup in order to refresh the palate. It was a warm spring day after all (not a cold winter’s night). It also needed some fruity characteristics so that the smoky bacon didn’t overpower it.
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped (see note)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), peeled and chopped into cubes
- 2 leeks, cut lengthwise, thoroughly cleaned and chopped into slices (the white and light green parts only)
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 ounces Crème fraîche (sour cream or thick Greek yogurt could work too)
- In a large pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy (5-10 minutes). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and discard most, but not all, the bacon fat. Set aside.
- To the same pot add the butter, extra virgin olive oil, potatoes, and leeks, and cook until they begin to soften (about 10 minutes).
- Season with salt and pepper and then add the wine and simmer about 2 minutes to reduce. Add the stock, bring to a simmer, and cover for about 20-30 minutes (until the potatoes are fork tender).
- Puree the soup with a hand immersion blender, or transfer to a blender to puree the soup until creamy and all lumps are gone. Add crème fraîche and half the bacon back to the soup and stir together until combined.
- Serve and top with remaining bacon slices, chives, and fresh olive oil.
At our afternoon gathering we had a cheese and charcuterie plate; Marcona almonds; toasted baguette slices with prosciutto, melted cheese, and sage butter; and the potato leek soup. I needed some wines that would go with all the competing flavors (the spicy chorizo slices, the salty almonds, the savory sage, and the creamy soup with smoked bacon). I chose two different rosés–a pale Provençal rosé and a medium-bodied rosé from Spain.
Light dry rosés from the Provence region of France or rosés made from delicate Pinot Noir grapes are crisp and mild in flavors and aromas (think mild strawberry, cherry, citrus, herbs, and some spice notes). They are incredible to drink alone on a warm day, but they paired remarkably well with the mild flavors and creamy texture of the rich soup.
Some to seek out from the Cotes de Provence are the Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé, Chateau Montaud Rosé, and Chateau Miraval Rosé. I’m also a huge fan of rosé’s of Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley or the Etude Pinot Noir Rosé from Carneros region of California.
Medium to fuller-bodied dry rosés from Southern France and also Spanish rosés, especially those from Rioja and Navarra, are a great match for stronger flavors like tapas, charcuterie, paella, and grilled meats. They also taste awesome with salty and oily Marcona almonds. They tend to be darker in color and have stronger berry aromas, allowing them to stands up to bolder food flavors. A couple examples are Bodegas Muga Rosado (Rioja, Spain), and Las Rocas Rosado (Calatayud, Spain).
Fuller bodied rosés, made in new world locations like the US and Chile (those made from bigger grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah), are usually darker in color with strong fruit aromas and can take on those bigger flavors. Those can stand up to heavier dishes like rich BBQ sauces, grilled meats, and even spicy dishes.
Like I said–versatile! These wines are great for spring fare and incredible for summer BBQ’s, picnics, and gatherings and come in a variety of styles.
We hope you enjoy our wine pairing choices. If you want to know which wines YOU will like best, download the FREE iPhone app Wine4.Me. Tell it what wines you know you like and get your own personalized rankings of best-selling, widely available wines in the US.
Mary Cressler is a Certified Sommelier, a Wine Location Specialist, and the proprietor of Vindulge: Wine Education & Consulting. She conducts wine classes and events and offers consulting for individuals, restaurants, and event planners.
She writes about wine, food, and travel on her blog Vindulge. Mary resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, twin boys, and two Chihuahuas.